Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

nutcracker photo by JiaYing Grygiel

Photos by JiaYing Grygiel

Easy holiday trip: See giant nutcrackers, holiday lights in Ballard

The ballet's old Maurice Sendak-designed 'Nutcracker' props loom over fairy-tale home.

nutcracker ballard photo by JiaYing Grygiel

The Mouse King is nearly as tall as the house.

Can’t steel yourself to haul the kids up to the mountains for a day of sledding? Try this festive (and free) holiday outing right in the city.

Start at the Ballard Nutcracker House in the 9000 block of Loyal Ave NW. You can’t miss the 15-foot-tall, 700-pound nutcracker standing guard at the end of the driveway. The giant fiberglass figures came from the “Nutcracker” collaboration of the Pacific Northwest Ballet and Maurice Sendak (yes, the author of “Where the Wild Things Are”). The huge figures had been displayed in the lobby of McCaw Hall each December for 30 years. When the ballet switched to the George Balanchine version of “The Nutcracker” in 2015, the figures went home with John Carrington, PNB’s principal harpist.

nutcracker photo by JiaYing Grygiel, Ballard

A nutcracker peeks out from the house.

nutcracker ballard photo by JiaYing Grygiel

Decor adds a little holiday magic.

This year, there’s a GoFundMe to help pay for the upkeep of the Ballard nutcrackers (Carrington has been furloughed). You can leave a donation in a box at the house. The Ballard nutcrackers will be on display until the first week of January.

Next, head a mile east on NW 85th Street to Olympic Manor. You’ll know you’re at the right place when you see the spinning Santas. This development of low-slung mid-century homes is famous for its neighborhood lights. It’s way better than any of the ticketed drive-throughs we’ve been to this year. You can drive through the streets, or better yet, park and walk for a better look at the wonderful lights.

Wear your masks, keep your distance and happy holidays!

nutcracker photo by JiaYing Grygiel

Children help show off how big the nutcracker is.

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About the Author

JiaYing Grygiel

JiaYing Grygiel is the mama of two boys and a freelance photographer and writer. Her work has appeared in Seattle's Child, The Bellingham Herald and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She previously worked as an editor for and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and now blogs at